There's a memorable line in
Ghostbusters, where Bill Murray tells Sigourney Weaver that as a rule, he never gets involved with possessed women. One scorching kiss later, he utters, "Actually, it's more of a guideline than a rule." The same can be said for the ticking digital clock on Fox's
24 - it represents more of a guideline than legitimate time elapsed. Yes, this thrill-ride of a series is heralded by many, myself included, yet it nonetheless perilously rides the razor's edge of complete unbelievability.
In the new season's first act alone, we were asked to believe that Jack Bauer, less-than-fresh from a prolonged Chinese prison stint, showered, shaved and (somehow) gave his shaggy hair a salon-quality snipping, all within a matter of 11 minutes. Let's compare that to my own thrill-ride of a life:
Shower: 7 minutes, typically (8, if it's time for conditioner)
Shave: At least 2 minutes - and that's for 3-day stubble.
Haircut: Even when I rush Francesca at (plug, plug, plug...) Le Grand Salon in Hillsdale, NJ - if, say, my unsupervised 4-year-old sons are done playing with the esthetician's hot wax cooker - she needs a solid 15 minutes to mince my mop.
That's 25 minutes, yet good ol' Jack goes from Unabomber to International Male in 11. (And I didn't even address how over that same brief spell, it went from dusk to broad daylight.)
But time isn't the only thing no longer on 24's side. There are the magnificent leaps, of both logic and logistics. We diehard fans do not mind such stretches of credibility at occasional, even regular intervals, but please don't ask us to accept a slew of them in a row. Just consider, again from the new season's premiere:
" After semi-defusing a suicide bomber on the subway, Jack is able to instantly rendezvous with Fayed - who was in pursuit of a separate suspect - at street level.
" In a desperate bid to waylay said suspect, Jack liberates a man of his vehicle, navigates a circuitous series of back ways and alley ways, barreling through fences and what not, ultimately emerging from a side street to - perfect timing alert! - sideswipe the suspect's car.
" Within mere minutes of the suspect's storage unit being exploded, CTU has combed through the undoubtedly red-hot refuse and categorized any possible clues.
" This was one of my favorites: Calling into CTU a new lead/address, Jack asks Buchanan where the nearest tac team is located. Bill's actual reply: "You're as close as anybody, Jack. Go for it." Well, isn't that convenient?
Credibility lapses like those few listed above are nothing brand-new to 24. Lord knows, there are entire web pages dedicated to picking such nits, exhaustively and expertly detailing the show's storytelling leaps. But there can be a happy medium between where we are today (meaning Day 6), and the relatively far more realistic pace of Season 1, when car rides to destinations required cabin interior scenes, when not every little thing was happening "in five minutes." Take a breather now and again, guys, especially with poor Jack seemingly weary from what had to be a debilitating imprisonment.
After all, you've got all day.